The defense attorney for eight Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventists accused of trying to murder self-pronounced prophet George Roden said he will decide today whether to include a casket as evidence during trial testimony.

“It’s something we’ve been talking about all along,” said defense attorney Gary Coker.

The casket is the object Branch Davidians say they went to photograph at Rodenville on Nov. 3, 1987 —the same day as a shootout with Roden, in which he suffered a hand wound and a flesh wound to his chest.

As Coker and defendant David Jones stood at the McLennan County Courthouse stairway, Jones told the attorney that he and co-defendant Vernon Howell had measured the casket. “We think we can get it up the stairs,” Jones said.

“We’ve offered for evidence photographs of the casket, but that was done for the limited purpose of proving they were shown to the sheriff’s department prior to the eight men going out there,” Coker said Monday. “To me, the best evidence is the real thing.”

Today also may be the day Roden testifies. Prosecutors El-Hadi Shabazz and Denise Wilkerson rested their case without calling Roden. Coker filed a motion to declare Roden incompetent, but he indicated he may withdraw the motion and call him as a witness.

“I really won’t make that decision until Tuesday,” Coker said.

Coker has a writ of habeas corpus to transfer Roden from federal custody to state custody. Roden is serving a six-month sentence for filing legal motions threatening to have God sic herpes and acquired immune deficiency syndrome on judges.

On Monday, Wayne Martin, a Branch Davidian who is an attorney licensed in Pennsylvania but not in Texas, testified that the Branch Davidians had tried several means to remove Roden from the 77 acres near Elk they now call the Mount Carmel Center.

Martin told Coker that attorneys Lyndon Olson and Herbert Bristow had refused to help them enforce a 1979 injunction barring Roden from selling or holding possession of the land. The attorneys refused, Martin said, because they were afraid Roden would sue them.

“When George Roden brings litigation, he sues everything but the doorknobs on the courthouse,” Martin said.

Church members also tried unsuccessfully to get a tax lien on the Mount Carmel Center by paying $68,000 in back taxes.

Shabazz asked Perry Jones, a long-time church official, how the Branch Davidians could “barely” be making it at Palestine — where they live in cardboard houses — but could pay back taxes and buy $3,000 worth of guns.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part 2 appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

In 1994, the surviving Davidians went on trial in San Antonio. Over six weeks, more than 140 witnesses testified, with the verdict coming just two days prior to the anniversary of the ATF raid.

The Rodenville shootout and the 1988 trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more stories from deep in the Trib archives.